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History of Pandemics

The greatest "pandemic" of all - TB:

  • TB has been with us since earliest times and is the most successful pathogenic human parasite of all time, even now it affects 2 billion people (1/3rd of global population) worldwide with 2 million people dying from it each year.
  • currently, highest rates of infection are in Africa and Asia exacerbated by the current HIV pandemic leading to an increasing global threat of multi-drug resistant forms.
  • it was present in Egyptian population in 3000-2400BC as well as in the ancient Greek population in 460BC when it was known as phthisis and was noted to be the most prevalent serious illness of the time.
  • it was present in South America 2000 yrs ago well before colonisation and has been found in a bison which lived 17,000 years ago.
  • like its related infection leprosy, TB is not usually regarded as a pandemic but rather an endemic illness given its persistent infection.
  • NB. like TB, leprosy has been with us since antiquity and is now mainly in the Third World countries. Most cases are in India, Myanmar, Nepal, Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania which account for > 90% of global cases. 1-2 million people globally are disabled. Historically, by 1230AD there were over 250 leper hospitals in England. There were many other conditions though that were mistaken for leprosy including fungal conditions such as tinea and the non-infectious skin condition, psoriasis.

SARS outbreak of 2003:

  • not a pandemic but could have been without intervention
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or coronaviral pneumonitis

HIV / AIDS pandemic:

  • 1980's to present

The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (the "Spanish flu"):

  • 25 million to 100 million people killed worldwide
  • the influenza virus:
    • humans can be infected with influenza types A, B and C.
    • Types A and B create seasonal and epidemic disease outbreaks.
    • pandemics are usually created by type A with H1N1, H2N2, and H3N2 subtypes responsible for the 3 pandemics of the 20th century. H2N2 circulated between 1957 and 1968 but currently does not. 
    • main pandemics have been 1510, 1729, 1781, 1830, 1898, 1918, 1957, 1967
    • pandemics are inevitable with a predicted global death burden from a moderate pandemic is 45 million people which is 75% of the current annual death burden of 58 million deaths per year.

Third Pandemic:

  • originating in China in 1855 and continued globally until 1959
  • caused by the bubonic plague bacterium Yersinia pestis

Cholera epidemics of the 19th century:

  • starting in Bengal in India in 1816, it spread across India by 1820 and as far as China and the Caspian Sea before receding.
  • 2nd outbreak hit Europe & London in 1832 then Ontario and New York and by 1834, the Pacific coast of north America.
  • 3rd outbreak in 1852-1860 mainly hit Russia killing over a million people.
  • 4th outbreak in 1863-1875 affected mainly Europe and Africa with North America hit in 1866.
  • an outbreak in 1892 hit Hamburg, Germany.
  • Russia was again badly affected in 1899-1923 while its affect on Europe was restricted due to public health improvements.  

Great Plague of London:

  • one of the last outbreaks of the Black Death plague hit London in 1665-1666 killing almost 1/6th of London with 70,000 killed.
  • followed by in 1666, the number of the devil, by the Great Fire of London (Feb 2-9) burning over 13,200 houses, and buildings such as St Paul's Cathedral.
  • 1664: a bright comet appears which religious superstition warned would herald the apocalypse of pestilence & war and the end of London's hedonistic “golden age” backlash against the pious reign of Cromwell.
  • 1676: influenza epidemic hits London;

Colonisation epidemics of the 16th century:

  • introduction of infectious diseases by Europeans to immunologically naive populations during colonisation decimated indigenous populations.
  • entire population of Canary Islands killed.
  • Half the native population of Hispaniola in 1518 was killed by smallpox. Smallpox also ravaged Mexico in the 1520s, killing 150,000 in Tenochtitlán alone, including the emperor, and Peru in the 1530s, aiding the European conquerors.
  • Measles killed a further two million Mexican natives in the 1600s.
  • As late as 1848–49, as many as 40,000 out of 150,000 Hawaiians are estimated to have died from measles, whooping cough and influenza.

Typhus epidemics:

  • typhus severely affected the Spanish army  in 1489 during fighting between the Christian Spaniards and the Muslims in Granada.
  • French army likewise affected in 1528 in Italy.
  • Typhus again was a major factor in the war against the Ottomans in the Balkans in 1542.

The Black Death:

  • most believe it was due to Yersinia pestis  and probably arose in 1334 in the Chinese province of Hubei and appears to have spread to Europe along the Mongol trading routes, arriving in Constantinople in 1347.
  • it was next reported in Caffa, a trading city in the Crimean Peninsula where Mongols were attacking the city but their numbers dropped dramatically as the Black Death raged through their troops. The Mongols used the infected corpses of their soldiers as biological weapons by catapulting them over the walls of the city.
  • the Genoese inhabitants of Caffa fled back to their home ports in the south of Europe taking the disease with them. The ships returned with most or all of the crew dead, limping into ports or being washed up on the shores.
  • by 1347-48, it had spread to Genoa and Venice, by June 1348 it reached England, France, Spain and Portugal.
  • in 1348-49 it devastated the Middle East, Antioch, Mecca & Mosul.
  • by 1350 it reached Scandinavia and in 1351, north-western Russia and Yemen.
  • it continued to return to Europe until the last half of the 17th century, with each outbreak being less lethal.

Plague of Justinian:

  • possibly the 1st recorded pandemic & the 1st recorded outbreak of the bubonic plague.
  • AD 541-542, starting in Egypt or Ethiopia & spreading to Constantinople killing 10,000 a day at its peak and 25% of inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Antonine Plague:

  • AD 165-180 and AD 251-266;
  • possibly smallpox brought back from the Near East; killed a quarter of those infected and up to five million in all. At the height of a second outbreak (251–266) 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in Rome.

Plague of Athens:

  • 430BC, Athens lost a third of its population due to typhoid fever.

11th century BC:

  • perhaps the earliest epidemic recorded
  • I Samuel 5:6 in the Torah


history/h_pandemics.txt · Last modified: 2013/01/14 19:59 by gary1

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